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While May is considered National Strawberry Month, late May and early June are the perfect time to pick your own or purchase locally grown berries in the Mid-West. To select the very best berries – choose those with full red color, as they will not continue to ripen like some other fruits. The caps should be attached, bright green, and fresh looking. Check berries before refrigerating to ensure there is no mold or damaged areas, these areas can spread to other berries. Refrigerate berries quickly, wash and remove caps only when ready to use. Do not float berries in water when washing, as they will lose color and flavor. Use fresh within 3 days.

If you want to save strawberries that may be low cost now for future use, consider tray freezing. After a quick rinse and pat dry, place berries on a cookie sheet covered with wax or parchment paper and freeze for 1 – 2 hours. Your choice if you remove the stem before or after freezing – it depends on what you want to do with them in the future. Once frozen, roll paper to slide fruit into freezer safe storage container. Remove any air from bag or fill other containers almost full to prevent damage from freezer burn.

The wonderful thing about strawberries is that you get a large serving – 1 cup of fruit = approximately 50 calories. They are an excellent source of Vitamin C, and contain fiber, folate, and potassium. Their low glycemic index makes them a great choice for diabetics looking for low carbohydrate, healthy foods. Be creative with your use of strawberries in meals or snacks.

Try:

  • On salads
  • On pancakes with no syrup
  • On cereal or oatmeal
  • In your smoothie or yogurt parfait
  • Infused strawberry and basil water
  • Chopped into muffin or quick breads in place of blueberries
  • Sliced on angel food cake – no icing
  • Making a breakfast pocket with a whole wheat tortilla – spread a little light cream cheese with cinnamon on the tortilla, cover with sliced berries, and toast both sides on a lightly sprayed griddle or pan
  • Or made into a quick, less sugar strawberry freezer jam. This recipe is easy for even young children to make.

STRAWBERRY FREEZER JAM

1 quart of strawberries (about 1 2/3 cups)

2/3 cup sugar

2 tablespoons instant pectin

Yields 4 jars of jam – freeze for storage

Directions: Wash hands and preparation area before beginning. Remove leaves/stems and any bad spots from washed strawberries. Add sugar, pectin, and strawberries to bowl and begin crushing strawberries. Stir for 3 minutes. Fill jars/containers with jam and freeze or refrigerate to store. Refrigerate for up to 3 weeks or freeze for up to 1 year.

Sources:

Selecting, Storing, and Serving Ohio Strawberries, https://ohioline.osu.edu/factsheet/HYG-5531.

Source: “Put It Up”, National Center for Home Food Preservation, University of Georgia Cooperative Extension, and Clemson Extension.

Writer: Lisa Barlage, Extension Educator, Family and Consumer Sciences, Ohio State University Extension, Ross County.

Reviewer: Kate Shumaker, Extension Educator, Family and Consumer Sciences, Ohio State University Extension, Holmes County.

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Tents at a Farmers' Market

Mid-May and farmers’ markets are back. Farmers’ markets are great places to get fresh produce (often picked that morning) and get inspired to eat and/or cook with fresh ingredients. Since this is the beginning of the fresh produce season in Ohio, produce will probably be limited for a few weeks.  Produce you may find include:

  • fresh lettuces
  • green onions
  • asparagus
  • rhubarb
  • herbs
  • mushrooms
  • strawberries
  • cabbage
  • radishes

Some producers may have other produce which they grew in a green house or purchased from someone in a southern state. These can be delicious too. 

To locate a farmers’ market near you check here. Most farmers’ markets have other items for sale too, such as baked goods, honey, jams/jelly, soap, plants, meat, eggs, cheese and others. There have been gift items, jewelry, homemade cards and décor items at a local farmers’ market I visit. Some farmers’ markets require you to order ahead for pick up. Other ones are open for people to walk around and check out what is available.   

If you are looking for organic food items, many farmers’ markets have a wide variety of options that may be certified organic or grown with specific practices that vendors would be happy to share with you.

Not sure what to look for when purchasing foods in season now? 

strawberries in pint containers
  • Choose loose leaf lettuce over iceberg for more nutritional benefits. Choose lettuce with healthy outer leaves that are green and crisp, not withered and/or with brown or yellow edges. Darker green colors indicate higher nutritional value, and don’t negligent the purple edges or other darker colors as those contain other good nutrients. Don’t forget to choose spinach, kale, and collards. Choose firm, heavy heads of cabbage. 
  • Fresh strawberries from the farmers’ market are delicious. They are usually ripe all the way through, smell wonderful, and taste great. They may not last as long in the refrigerator as grocery store ones, but they have so much more taste. 
  • Choose asparagus that have stalks able to stand up with firm heads, and a smooth texture. 
  • Mushrooms should look fresh and smell good. One surprising fact is you can’t overcooking your mushrooms. Whether sautéing mushrooms quickly or in an hour-long dish cooking in the oven mushrooms retain a firm texture. Enjoy them in many different dishes.   
  • The size of rhubarb stalks are not important. If you want a sweeter and richer taste choose deep red stalks, which are usually not as tart. Mixing rhubarb and strawberries in a pie helps reduce the sugar needed to keep it from being tart. Check out this Rhubarb Strawberry Topping for pancakes, ice cream and yogurt. Rhubarb stalks are a good source of potassium. Don’t eat the leaves of rhubarb as they are poisonous. 

Another one that can’t be beat at the farmers’ market is when they have fresh tomatoes, usually in July, August and September. It’s a explosion of flavor in your mouth compared to eating store purchased tomatoes. 

Enjoy buying from a local farmer’s market as it supports your local economy. Check out what day your local farmers’ market happens and go shopping!

Author:  Pat Brinkman, Family and Consumer Sciences Educator, Ohio State University Extension Fayette County

Reviewer:   Emily Marrison, Family and Consumer Sciences Educator, Ohio State University Extension Coshocton County

Sources:

Franzen-Castle, L. (2021). Healthy Bites for May: National Asparagus Month. University of Nebraska Lincoln Extension.  Available at https://food.unl.edu/healthy-bites-may-national-asparagus-month

Ohio Proud. (2021). Find a Farmer’s Market.   Available at http://ohioproud.org/farm-markets-all/farmers-market-search/find-a-farmers-market/#!directory/map

Tufts University, (2021). “Five Fun Food Facts You Should Know,” Health & Nutrition Letter, Tufts University, Gerald J. and Dorothy R. Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy, 39 (2) p.6

University of Illinois Extension. (2021). “Watch Your Garden Grow Rhubarb,” University of Illinois Extension.  Available at https://web.extension.illinois.edu/veggies/rhubarb.cfm

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